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Holiday Weight Gain a Big Fat Lie

Evidence suggests that “holiday weight gain” has less to do with a few weeks of overeating and more to do with lack of exercise and habits over the entire year. Weight gain is often blamed on the season, the rich, sweet, and gourmet foods that surround the holidays. The real problem, experts say, is lack of physical activity year-round, as well as serving sizes and self control.  Moderation is key.

A study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in the six months from late September to early March, the average weight gain was only 1.06 pounds…but by the following September they were up 1.36 pounds from their initial weights.  This showed that the modest weight gain experienced over the winter months was never lost, but accumulates year after year.


Dr. Jack A. Yanovski, head of Growth and Obesity at the National Institute of Health, said that these results show good and bad news.  “The good news is that most people are not gaining five or six pounds during the holidays, but the bad news is that weight gained over the winter holidays isn’t lost during the rest of the year.” 


Cynthia Sass, nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says,  "Fat gain really does require overeating over many days and weeks and months." She also noted that if you under-eat before the holidays you only lose water and carbohydrates stored in muscles...and this is temporary.

It is daily physical activity that really determines who doesn’t gain those unwanted pounds.


Tips that can help over the holidays:

1.   Let go of the negative, guilt-ridden thoughts about “horrible extra calories.” Enjoy the holiday dinner.

2.   Fix your traditional favorites — the stuffing, the pie — as you always have or you’ll feel cheated. Certain side dishes could lose a little fat, like the green bean casserole, candied yams, and buttered mashed potatoes... Replace them with steamed green beans, broccoli, mashed white or sweet potatoes with Earth BalanceTM, and unglazed carrots. “You’re compromising, but not in a depriving sort of way.”

3.   Eat a little bit less than you otherwise might. Eat slower. Start with a salad. Pick one small dessert to treat yourself, rather than tasting all of them.

4.   Incorporate physical activity into your get-togethers with friends and family. Play charades or go outside, learn a new dance step — anything that makes you move around.

5.   Take a walk after dinner — but don’t force anyone to walk if they’re not used to it, especially after a big meal. You have less blood flow and oxygen to your heart and lungs while your body is still trying to digest.

6.   Enjoying life — is important, but enjoying life is not just about eating rich foods.  It is about quality of life...and that means staying making healthier choices all year round.